January 06, 2006

Seeking Certainty From Beyond the Grave

I found an interesting article over at the BBC. A Virginia man named Roger Keith Coleman was convicted of a particularly loathsome rape/murder that occurred in 1981. He was executed in the electric chair in 1992, maintaining his innocence until the very end.

The case attracted international attention, which seems to happen fairly often when someone is executed here in the United States. Now those opposed to the death penalty are scenting a victory since Virginia governor Mark Warner has ordered that new DNA tests be used to see if Coleman was actually guilty.

I'm not against revisiting old cases in theory because I'm dedicated to protecting the innocent. In this instance, considering the amount of time that has passed since the crime, I doubt very highly if any practical good can come from spending taxpayer money. It's not as if there is a search for the guilty, just an effort to prove that someone was wrongly convicted.

And that is the rub. Governor Warner is set to leave office this month and rumor has it that he's manuevering to make a bid for the White House. What am I supposed to make of this except that it is a cynical move to garner support from the extreme Liberal base of the Democratic party?

A law professor quoted in the article says that this could be the big turning point for the anti-death penalty movement in the US. If it can be proven scientifically that sometimes the innocent are wrongly convicted, then it will go a long way towards justifying the position that the death penalty should be abolished.

So what happens if it turns out that Coleman was guilty and lying through his teeth? Will death penalty opponents suddenly shut up and go home?

Posted by James Rummel at January 6, 2006 08:10 PM | TrackBack

There's another element to this case that doesn't focus as much on the death penalty politics. While I have no doubt that Warner was thinking of political benefits to this move, there's also renewed attention on whether innocent people have been convicted because less than a month ago two men who served time for rape were cleared through DNA testing. The same ordered review of old cases turned up three other men previously who were innocent and served time. They expect to go back and examine many more from the Virginia cases where something with DNA was saved in the file.

Posted by: Bitter at January 7, 2006 07:05 AM

It would seem to me that the right and left should have their positions reversed on the death penatly.

The left should support it because they are for a large goverment with power.

and the right should oppose it because they are against the goverment having to much power.

Posted by: cube at January 9, 2006 05:52 PM

Here's my conservative view of the death penalty: I don't think ANY government is legitimate enough to deprive any human citizen of his or her life, period.

Posted by: robert at January 11, 2006 02:28 AM

He was guilty.

Posted by: Bitter at January 12, 2006 04:29 PM

Thank you kindly, Bitter.

Now that we've settled that once and for all, I'm sure that the death penalty opponents can go to be tonight secure in the conviction that at least an innocent man wasn't wrongly executed.


Posted by: James R. Rummel at January 12, 2006 04:35 PM
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